Planetary Alignment 2023: Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury & Uranus Visible Tonight
Planetary alignments are beautiful celestial events that you can observe without special equipment. The next one will take place on May 29. Here you’ll learn how to observe the alignments, find the dates of the most spectacular ones, and gain a thorough understanding of these celestial events.
- What planets are visible tonight during the alignment of planets 2023?
- What is a planetary alignment?
- The upcoming planetary alignments
- Bottom line
Planetary alignment is an astronomical term used to describe the event when several planets gather closely on one side of the Sun at the same time.
Planetary parade is a colloquial term that means, in the broadest sense, that several planets are present in the sky in one night.
Now let's find out when the planets will align next time.
What planets are visible tonight during the alignment of planets 2023?
On the morning of May 29, five planets – Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus – will line up within a 70-degree sky sector. Watch the planetary alignment about an hour before sunrise. This is a rare opportunity to see five planets at once, but be aware that two of them (Neptune and Uranus) will be challenging to spot. To make the most out of this astronomical event, download Sky Tonight, a free stargazing app that will help you locate the planets in the sky with ease.
Saturn (magnitude 1.0) will be the first planet to rise as early as the middle of the night on May 28-29. Look for it in the constellation Aquarius. Neptune (magnitude 7.9) will be about 10° lower in the neighboring constellation Pisces. The planet won’t be seen with the naked eye – to spot it, you will need at least a pair of binoculars. To locate Neptune, launch the Sky Tonight app, find the planet via the search bar, and tap the blue target button next to its name. Then, tap the blue compass button on the screen, and the app will use your device’s location to adjust the image to the actual sky. Follow the white arrow until you spot Neptune on the screen, and point your binoculars in that direction to see the planet in the real sky.
Three other planets will rise in the early morning and be much closer to the horizon. Find Jupiter (magnitude -2.1) in the constellation Aries and Mercury (magnitude 0.4) a bit lower in the same constellation. Uranus (magnitude 5.8) will be the last planet to rise in the sky. It will be close to the horizon in the constellation Aries. You can spot the planet with binoculars about an hour before sunrise. To find out the exact sunrise time for your location, launch the Sky Tonight app and go to the Visible Tonight tab (the telescope icon on the main screen). The second time in the Stargazing Index section is the sunrise time for your location on a given date.
May 29 is the best day for observation. However, in some locations, the alignment may be visible several days before and after that date. Now we’ll give you a few tips on how to observe the alignment.
How to see the planetary alignment today?
First, choose the right time. As mentioned above, you should find out the sunrise time for your location and start your observations at least an hour before it. You can find out the sunrise time for your location with Sky Tonight.
Then, make sure you’re looking at the planets and not the stars. It’s not as obvious as it seems! It may be easy to distinguish Jupiter because it will be the brightest celestial object in the morning sky until the Sun rises. The other planets, however, are much fainter. One of the differences is that the planets, unlike the stars, don’t twinkle. And if you observe the night sky throughout the year, you’ll notice that the planets “visit” different constellations while the stars stay in “fixed” positions relative to each other.
The easiest way to check if you see a planet or a star is by using the free Sky Tonight app:
Step 1: Open Sky Tonight and point your device at the sky or tap the big blue button. The app will display a live representation of the sky above you and track your movements.
Step 2: Direct your device toward the part of the sky where the object you wish to identify is located. You can lower the magnitude so that only naked-eye objects are left on the screen. To do this, tap the bottom panel and drag the top slider toward the eye icon.
Step 3: Tap on the object to see its name on the screen, then you can tap the name to learn more about it.
To see the alignment in all its beauty, find a place with a dark sky without light pollution and with a clear view of the horizon (without obstacles such as trees or tall buildings). It’s particularly important for observing the planetary alignment on May 29, because three of the five planets (Uranus, Mercury, and Jupiter) will be close to the horizon, and two of the planets (Uranus and Neptune) will be very dim.
The short guide above will help you spot the aligned planets. To plan your observations, check out the 2023 planetary alignments listed below in this article. But first, let's dive into the theory if you're wondering what it actually means when planets align.
What is a planetary alignment?
Here are two common definitions of a planetary alignment:
- An astronomical event when planets gather closely on one side of the Sun at the same time, as seen from above the Solar System.
Some people think the Solar System planets can form a straight line as viewed from the Sun. However, the planets cannot achieve full alignment in three dimensions. Even a looser grouping in one quadrant (a 90-degree sector) is extremely rare: all planets gather in one quadrant only 7 times in the current millennium.
- A visual phenomenon when the planets appear close together in a small sky sector, as seen from the Earth.
When the Earth is one of the planets gathered on one side of the Sun, it appears to the observer that several planets are aligned in the sky. The smaller the sector in which the planets are seen, the more spectacular the alignment.
Don’t forget that alignments from the first definition aren’t always as striking as seen from the Earth. Even when all the planets gather within one quadrant in space, they may be scattered across the sky’s dome. Moreover, when the inner planets are close to the Earth-Sun line, we won't see them in the night sky.
Do the planets form a line in the sky during the planetary alignment?
The planets do form a line, but it's not perfectly straight. All the planets orbit the Sun in almost the same plane. As a result, when viewing from Earth, the other planets appear to move along the ecliptic, the Sun’s yearly path across the sky. You can check it yourself with the stargazing app Sky Tonight:
- Launch the app and find the yellow dotted line that contains the Sun and goes through the entire celestial sphere – this is the ecliptic.
- Move along this line, and you’ll eventually find all the planets on the sides of it. Or you can type the name of the desired planet in the search field and tap the target button near its name. The app will show the planet’s current location, and it will be near the ecliptic at any date and at any time.
As you move along the ecliptic in the app, you may notice that it is an arc from horizon to horizon. However, in a small part of the sky, the ecliptic looks like a straight line. You can see this by looking at the segment of the ecliptic that fits on your screen. That's why when the planets come closer together in one sky sector during an alignment, it looks like they’re forming an almost straight line in the sky.
Is a planet alignment and a planet parade the same thing?
“Planetary parade” is not an official astronomical term, so it is used more loosely than the term “planetary alignment.” Planetary alignments are colloquially called planetary parades. Additionally, when multiple planets are visible together in one night, it can also be called a planetary parade. In astrology, a planetary parade occurs when several planets are located in the same zodiac constellation.
Types of planetary alignments
The following types of planetary alignments are distinguished according to the number of participating planets:
- Mini planetary alignment – 3 planets.
- Small planetary alignment – 4 planets.
- Large planetary alignment – 5 or 6 planets.
- Great (full) planetary alignment – all Solar System planets (+ Pluto sometimes).
When two planets are close in the sky, what is it called?
When two planets meet in the sky, it's not a planetary alignment yet. It may be the closest approach or conjunction. In our dedicated article, you’ll find details about the upcoming planetary conjunctions.
The upcoming planetary alignments
Plan your planetary observations for all of 2023 and beyond! And don't miss the next planetary alignment – described in detail at the beginning of the article and regularly updated.
When will the planets align in 2023?
Check out the planetary alignments visible from Earth in the nearest months.
- May 29: a large morning alignment of Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus within a 70-degree sky sector.
- June 17: a large morning alignment of Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Uranus, and Mercury within a 93-degree sky sector.
- July 26: a mini evening alignment of Mars, Venus, and Mercury within an 11-degree sky sector.
- August 24: at sunset, a mini alignment of setting Mercury and Mars and rising Saturn within a 174-degree sky sector; later at night, a small alignment of Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, and Uranus within a 78-degree sky sector.
The most anticipated planetary alignments
Here are some planetary alignments discussed in the media. They are noteworthy because they feature many planets that are grouped closely together. However, most of them won’t happen anytime soon, so don't hold your breath.
On September 8, 2040, five naked-eye planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) will be within a circle of 9 degrees in the sky. The crescent Moon will also be visible, positioned between Venus and Saturn. The best time for observations will be around 19:30 local time.
On March 15, 2080, six planets – Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Uranus – will be visible in the morning sky, all within an 82-degree sector. This alignment is especially remarkable because it will feature the “great conjunction” of Saturn and Jupiter, which will be only six arcminutes apart.
On May 19, 2161, all Solar System planets, including the Earth, will gather on one side of the Sun, within 69 degrees of each other. However, the planets will appear to be spread across 171 degrees in the Earth’s sky, observable just before dawn.
On November 7, 2176, all Solar System planets, including the Earth, will gather on one side of the Sun, within 78 degrees of each other. From the Earth’s vantage point, the planets will be spread across the sky, within 162 degrees of each other.
On May 6, 2492, all Solar System planets, including the Earth, will gather on one side of the Sun, within 90 degrees of each other. In the Earth’s sky, the planets will be aligned within 162 degrees of each other.
When is the next planet parade?
The next planet parade is on May 29, 2023, when five planets – Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus – will align in the sky. Learn what other sky objects to see in May in our dedicated article.
When will 5 planets align in 2023?
On the alignment on May 29, 5 planets – Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus – will align in the morning sky within a 70-degree sky sector. Start looking for the planets about an hour before the local sunrise.
When was the last time all the planets aligned?
Last time, all 8 planets aligned on December 28, 2022. The planets gathered within a 153-degree sky sector; the alignment was visible right after sunset.
What is it called when all the planets align?
When all Solar System planets align, it’s called a “great” or “full” planetary alignment. However, the planets can’t be in a straight line in space, so during the alignment, they just gather closely on one side of the Sun.
How to see a planetary alignment 2023?
Planetary alignments are quite easy to observe, with just a few essential tips to keep in mind:
- The alignments featuring Mercury can be viewed just after sunset or before dawn, depending on the date.
- Use a pair of binoculars when trying to spot Uranus and Neptune.
- For the inner planets, the best viewing conditions occur near their greatest elongations, and for the outer planets – around their oppositions.
Use the app Sky Tonight to find all the planets in the sky above you and learn their visibility conditions.
When will all the planets align?
The Solar System planets never form a perfectly straight line in space, as they do not orbit in the same plane. But sometimes, the planets gather closely on one side of the Sun. At the next full alignment on May 19, 2161, the eight planets will be located within 69 degrees from each other.
What happens when the planets align?
Some media sources falsely claim that planetary alignments cause tsunamis, earthquakes, and other global disasters. This nonsense has been repeatedly debunked. In reality, alignments do not affect gravity or human life, but they are cool stargazing events.
Planetary alignment is a term used in astronomy to describe the event when several planets gather in a small sky area. This event may also be colloquially called a “planetary parade.” The next alignment of 5 planets is on May 29. The planets will be visible just before sunrise. Download a free stargazing app Sky Tonight to help you spot them all!